Nowadays, armed self defense often involves a citizen using their firearm to stop a violent criminal, rather than an attacking animal. However attacks by animals remain a real concern, regardless of where one lives. A few examples illustrate this point:
Rosie Humphries was walking her dog near her Flora, IL home when a pit bull approached them and attacked. Both Humphries and her dog were killed. The attacking dog was eventually restrained by its owner and the police, then taken away by animal control.
Agneta Westlund was walking her dog near Loftahammer, Sweeden when an elk mauled her to death. Police immediately arrested her husband on suspicion of murder, but released him ten days later when forensic evidence showed elk hair and saliva on his deceased wife’s body.
A Naples, FL father and daughter were walking their Jack Russell terrier when a neighbor’s bull dog attacked. The Jack Russell terrier was killed, and the father and daughter were both injured.
Turning to the effectiveness of armed self defense against animal attack, these cases are informative:
Greg Brush was a quarter mile from his Soldotna, AL home, walking his three dogs. He heard a noise and looked over his shoulder to find a bear about 20 yards away. As the 900 pound bear charged him Greg drew his revolver and fired two or three shots. The bear dropped to the ground dead just feet from Greg and his dogs.
Richard Volmering, of Harbor Beach, MI, had his 2 year old son Luke in the back yard. As his son was feeding the family dog, a stray dog entered the yard and attacked the child. Luke suffered bits to his head, face, and eye area, which required hospitalization. The same stray dog returned several hours later while another one of Richard’s sons was in the back yard. When Richard heard his other son scream for help, he grabbed his gun and fatally shot the dog when it became aggressive, preventing the dog from harming a second child of his that day.
For most people, attack by a dangerous animal is not in the top 10 risks to their life and safety. However that does not mean that the risk should be ignored. This is especially true since the same gun suitable for self defense against violent criminals can also be used to defend against attack by many smaller animals (although I certainly wouldn’t trust my .40 S&W pistol to stop a 900 lb. bear). Remember, it is far better to have a self defense gun and never need it, than to need a self defense gun and not have it.
Note: As someone who loves animals, especially dogs, I know that the vast majority of them are good-natured and pose no threat to humans. I also know that there is no such thing as a “dangerous” breed of dog, and that when a dog attacks a human it is generally the end result of abuse that the dog suffered at the hands of a human. As such, having to shoot a dog in self defense would be the last thing I would ever want to do. However, if it came down to protecting myself, my fiancé, or our own pets, I would certainly do so.
I love my dogs like members of my family. That being said they are still animals. It is true that most any dog will be perfectly safe if loved and trained properly, but I know people personally that had a beloved pet turn on them.
I agree to a certain extent that the idea of a "dangerous" breed of dog exsists mainly in most people's minds, but I also know that stereotypes good or bad about certain things are usually there for a reason. In the case of dogs its because certain breeds will always share certain personality traits that have been there for centuries. For example, my Shepherds like I have are usually more protective of area's of land, while Danes like my friend raises are protective of the ones they deem to be in thier pack (family for us).
One of the reason's I know my nieghbors on a first name basis is to also make sure I know thier pets. So many people now-a-days have no idea the names of people living everyday just a stone's throw from where thier children sleep that is boggles my mind.
I live pretty remotely and have had my dogs chased onto the front porch by protective deer. My smaller dog, a Boston Terrier, would be a tasty treat for the many coyotes, golden eagles, etc. that we have hereabouts. I never venture out without a sidearm. It's neither fear nor paranoia, but my response to the quoted saying "better to have and not to need, than need and not to have."
In many parts of the country human encroachment into animal habitat areas has created a lack of fear of humans and coyote, bear, cougar, and other attacks, some fatal, have resulted. In these areas to venture into the "wild" without adequate preparation is sheer folly.
If I drive 40 minutes from my home, I can be at a trailhead in the Northern Sierra Foothills, which is also mountain lion country. Attacks on humans there are rare. The most recent one was more than 10 years ago. And it involved a woman who was jogging by herself.
Her jogging probably triggered a chase reflex in the big cat. And the fact that she was alone made her a softer target.
If you can't find someone to hike with you, borrow your neighbor's dog. I've done that with Gurr, my neighbor's family's large Border Collie mix. I've always felt safe hiking with Gurr as my only companion. He's very protective of me. And if he smelled or heard a cougar, he'd bark his head off. Since a cougar is an ambush predator, who isn't attracted to meals that can fight back, he'd have second thoughts about attacking if the two of us were looking him in the eye, and standing our ground.
If you must hike alone, do it on a popular trail. If you get in trouble, the next hiker or mountain-biker can come to your aid.
A reasonable weapon to carry in that situation is an ordinary metal hiking pole. If I come across another hiker who's being mauled by a cougar, I can use my left hand to grasp the middle of the pole, while my right hand is still on the handle. Then I can deliver a painful puncture wound to the cougar's ribcage with the sharp end of the hiking pole.
In that situation, a hiking pole would be a better weapon than a side-arm. Why? With a handgun, there would be a risk that in my semi-panicked state, I'd miss the cougar, and shoot the poor hiker by mistake. Or there could be over-penetration.
If I hiked by myself on a really obscure trail in the Foothills, a revolver would be a better defensive weapon. But I still wouldn't feel completely safe. If attacked by a cougar, I'd probably be toast before I could draw it out of its holster.
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